He appears in many forms in the beauty of the wilderness
He always appears when I am least expecting him.
At Carlton Reserve, I aim for a brisk walk but bring the camera “just in case.” Then blooms stop me in my tracks — rain lily, Elliot’s milkpea, morning glory. Exercise mode abandoned, I pause over and over again to capture their gorgeousness.
Most of the time, I do not realize his presence until long into my walk or afterwards.
He defies description. Once he turned up in the guise of an owl. Some friends and I had stopped at the Fakahatchee Strand. I wanted them to experience the glorious chaos that is this preserve of cypress, royal palms, orchids, bromeliads and vines. Instead, the wildlife decided to put on a show for us. A young cottonmouth snake lay across part of the road. As we were about to leave, we peered into the swamp for a last look, and a barred owl plopped herself right in front of us. She proceeded to survey the surroundings, totally ignoring three gawking humans.
The cooter showed up one humdrum afternoon at Curry Creek Preserve.
With one eye on the skies, waiting for the next rain shower, I ambled along a trail slowed down by the heat on a mid-October day. When I turned to take the trail out of the park, I saw what looked to be a helmet moving slowly through the grass. At first I thought it was a gopher tortoise, but it was a bit smaller. Then the creature lifted his head to display the characteristic yellow markings on the black head of a Florida cooter turtle. The cooter and I walked side-by-side-by-side down the trail for a few minutes before he headed for the small stream by a culvert.
I was amazed at how tame he was.
Honored to be allowed into the world of these creatures even for a few minutes, I am also exhilarated by the experience.
Another time I was feeling depleted by the day’s news, so I abandoned my schedule and took to the woods. At Sleeping Turtles South, I stepped out of the van into a bed of wildflowers — frog fruit, blue-eyed grass, beggarticks. Then a few minutes into the Preserve, I met Bob, who works for the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, and we talked a bit about snakes. I had not seen one for months.
When I continued down the trail, a beautifully patterned rat snake, warming up after the night’s chill, turned up. He allowed me to photograph him before he rustled off into the grass. Usually, I catch just a hurried glimpse of snakes.
That was not all. Continuously along the path, beautiful scenes presented themselves. A sulphur butterfly circled ’round and ’round me. Fish nests appeared on the lake bottom.
Feeling like the young King Arthur under the tutelage of Merlin, when a fish swam towards me, I knew the conjurer was working his magic.
I would never set out to photograph a ruby-throated hummingbird. But one day, when I stopped to capture the bright red flowers of coral bean, a hummingbird dropped in for lunch.
I could never understand the workings of the God of Small Things. All I know is that if I cultivate awareness, he crops up from time to time.